What Does Fitzgerald Establish in the Opening of the Great Gatsby?

Topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby Pages: 3 (810 words) Published: November 30, 2012
What does Fitzgerald establish in this opening?

In the opening of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald establishes to readers that the book will be narrated by a man who supposedly ‘reserve[s] all judgments’. Through Nick, Fitzgerald establishes the hypocrisy and possible unreliability of the narrator – he makes judgments despite claiming that he ‘reserves’ them (saying ‘the intimate revelations of young men’ are ‘plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions’); the ambivalence of the narrator (and consequently the reader) towards life in the East, for which he has both an ‘unaffected scorn’ and fascination; and ultimately how the ‘foul dust’ that surrounded Gatsby, and indeed the American dream has diminished the ‘infinite hope’ of humanity to come to nothing.

Fitzgerald immediately establishes that Nick is a privileged person, who has had ‘advantages’ that other people did not. He was educated at Yale, and as such he has connections to some ‘enormously rich’ people, among them being Tom and Daisy Buchanan. At the same time, however, readers are made aware that Nick chooses to ‘reserve all judgments’, which he claims has made him ‘privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men’. There are times when Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom share confidences in him, which consequently allows Nick to see both the hollowness of Daisy’s (and indirectly humanity’s) ‘sophisticat[ion]’, as well as the ‘extraordinary gift of hope’ that Gatsby possesses. This also makes readers aware of these different characteristics, and through Nick, readers can form their own judgments of the different characters.

Although Nick claims to ‘reserve’ judgments, Nick makes or encourages judgments throughout the opening (‘the intimate revelations of young men… are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions’). He boasts of his tolerance, and then immediately asserts that it has a ‘limit’, encouraging readers to question just how true his statements and claims really are. Fitzgerald...
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